OUT OF THE FOLD
SOME WHO STAND ALOOF
"7 speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say."— Paul.
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OUT OF THE FOLD.
In almost every congregation there is a class of men
whose attitude towards the Church and religion causes
deep anxiety to every true Christian. I do not mean
the openly vicious and profane, but a class whose in-
tegrity is unimpeachable, and in whose moral deport-
ment there is little to blame ; a class who engage in
works of benevolence ; who give money for the spread
of religion and the relief of the poor; who are in-
terested, more or less, in religious work, yet, strange to
say, are not themselves religious. They understand
and approve of religion in the abstract, but its saving
power they have never felt.
When we look at such men we think of the Saviour's
words to the Scribe, — " Thou art not far from the king-
dom of God ;" and the wish springs up in the heart, —
" Oh that these men who gather around the pale of the
Christian Church were decidedly within it, and that
not merely by a formal profession, but in the experi-
ence of a true conversion to Christ !" Header ! if you
are one of the class referred to, I pray you to ponder
what follows : —
4 OUT OF THE FOLD.
I. In order to Salvation, your present attitude
towards God and Religion must be changed in
1. Your present position is unsatisfactory. . It must
be unsatisfactory to yourself. You feel that you are
not in a right relation either to God or His Church.
You feel that you ought to be a decided Christian, and
that the full weight of your talents and influence
should be thrown into the scale on the side of religion.
Doubtless you could assign many reasons why you
have not taken this decisive step ; but are these
reasons satisfactory ? I trow not. They do not satisfy
your own conscience, much less will they satisfy God
in the great day.
1. Your present position is unsafe, — yea dangerous.
I assume that you are not one of the openly ungodly ;
but your attitude tells that you have not yet closed
with God's offer of salvation. You are not trying to
make your calling and election sure, but you are leaving
everything that pertains to the eternal future in a con-
dition of awful uncertainty, and are thus running the
risk of being counted an enemy of Christ. " He that
is not with me," said Jesus, " is against me, and he that
gathereth not with me scattereth abroad."
3. Your present position is opposed to the mind and
xoill of Christ. — To give of your substance for the pro-
pagation of the Gospel, is well ; but you cannot serve
God by proxy. " Go„ work to-day in my vineyard," is
a command addressed to you. Christ demands open
profession and willing service. " If any man will come
after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross
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daily, and follow me." " Whosoever, therefore, shall
be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous
and sinful generation, of him also shall the Son of Man
be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his
Father with the holy angels."
4. Your present position is unjustifiable. It may not
be one of open hostility to Christ, but neither is it one
of real friendship. You are trying — it may be all un-
consciously — to occupy neutral ground. This you can-
not do without guilt. In time of peace it is not neces-
sary that a man should continually proclaim his de-
votion to his country ; but in time of war, when his
country is invaded, neutrality is disloyalty. Such is,
substantially, your position. The Christian army is in
the field, but you refuse to aid. You keep aloof from
God's people, and turn your back upon the Lord's table
as though you were a Turk or a Heathen. Can you
justify this ? " Curse ye Meroz !" Why ? — what had
they done ? Had they taken up arms against Jehovah ?
No ! Had they gone over to the enemy, and fought
against the chosen people ? No ! What, then, had they
done ? Nothing ! Their neutrality was their crime.
" Because they came not up to the help of the Lord, to
the help of the Lord against the mighty."
If you are now convinced that some change is neces-
sary, let us proceed a step farther : —
II. No Change will avail that does not lead in
the direction of the church of god, and of
Do not misunderstand me : I do not use the term
" Church of God " in a narrow or sectarian sense. I
6 OUT OF THE FOLD.
mean simply that it is the bounden duty of every man
to give his heart to Christ, and to unite with fc some
branch of His visible Church. In other words, the duty
of union and fellowship with those who love the Lord
Jesus Christ is imperative. Let me illustrate the ne-
cessity of a change in the direction I have indicated : —
1. A change towards Infidelity will not do. That
would be, in your case, a change from comparative in-
difference to open enmity, and would make your
position worse instead of better. You cannot rid your-
self of guilt by denying its existence, and whether you
believe it or not, the great fact of accountability to God
still remains. The only hope the Infidel can have of
escaping endless misery is the hope that the Bible may
not be true. Now if the Bible be not true, still the
Infidel is no better off than the Christian ; but if the
Bible be true, — what then ?
2. A change towards Universalis™ will not do. That
would be closing your eyes against danger instead of
trying to shun it. Many a man has sought to escape
from the stings of a guilty conscience by trying to
believe that God is too merciful to punish any man
forever ; but it may be well to remember that a man's
belief or disbelief cannot alter one of God's facts, and,
let Universalists say as they will, tf/mjtruth stands firm
— " The wicked shall be turned into hell, with all the
nations that forget God."
3. A Solitary Religion* apart from all Church con-
nection, will not do. I do not say that a man cannot be
a Christian apart from membership in the visible
Church, but it is, to say the least, exceedingly impro-
OUT OF THE FOLD. 7
bable that he ever will. At L best he will be a very
defective Christian. His religion will be eminently
seltish, and selfishness is opposed to the religion of
Jesus. Some of the graces of the Spirit he may have,
but like plants in the dark they will droop and fade for
want of light and air. Believe me, your intention of
being a secret disciple, though well meant, is but a
snare of the devil to delude your soul.
What, then, is the conclusion of the whole matter ?
It is j that, j£n the matter of duty, nothing short of a
sincere, open' profession of religion, and union with the
Church of Christ, will satisfy either God or your own
conscience. But such a profession involves much.
Let it be understood, therefore, that
III. This Change must be one op both Heart and
And this involves, on your part,
1. A cluivye of purpose. Your purposes in regard to
religion have been indefinite or vacillating ; henceforth
let them be definite and decided. You are now drift-
ing along with a vague idea that at some time — you
hardly know when, and in some way — you hardly
know how, you will become a Christian. You have
purposed to give your heart to God at a " more con-
venient season," but the purpose has never ripened into
execution. Be not deceived. Salvation and heaven
are not won by halting between two opinions. " The
kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent
take it by force."
8 OUT OF THE FOLD.
2. A change of conduct. And this is two-fold : —
(1) Breaking off all sinful practices, according to God's
commandment — " Cease to do evil ;" and again — " Let
the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man
his thoughts, and let him turn unto the Lord and He
will have mercy upon him." There be those who decry
all this as if it were seeking salvation by works, and
they ask — " Suppose a man forsake his sins, will that
save him ?" I answer " No ; but not forsaking his sins
will damn him." Christ came to save his people from
their sins, not in them ; and, be assured, he will not
save that man who will not forsake his sins. (2) En-
gaging earnestly in all known duties, — such as reading
the Scriptures, praying to God, keeping holy the Sab-
bath, going to the House of God, relieving the poor, etc.
Here the question arises, — Is it right for an uncon-
verted man to do these things ? I ask in return, — Is
it right for him not to do them ? These are duties which
God requires of all men. In the day of Judgment
sinners will be condemned for not doing them. (See
Matt. 25 : 41-6). But suppose a man does all these
things, is he, therefore, saved ? If by " saved " you mean
pardoned and justified, 1 say No ; these things are not
the end, but they are means to an end, and that end is
— salvation. He who finds Jesus finds salvation ; but
he who would find must first seek. And where is he to
seek if not in the Scriptures and the means of grace,
and how is he to seek if not by forsaking his sins and
crying to God ? Be assured that while Christian duties
do not in themselves save a man, the neglect of them
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involves him in condemnation. " These ought ye
to have done, and not to leave the other undone."
3. A change of relation. Your relations have hitherto
been with the world ; let them now be with the people
of God. There is much practical wisdom in the old
adage — " A man is known by the company he keeps."
If your friendships are all with the world and with
worldly people, the broadest charity can hardly hope
that you are a Christian. And may not these worldly
associations and friendships have been one great ob-
stacle in the way of your becoming a decided Christian ?
Do you say Christians are no better than others ?
Perhaps if you knew Christians better you would re-
spect and love them more ; and the " inconsistencies "
of which you complain would vanish when, in your
heart, " brotherly love " had taken the place of cold
suspicion. If the Church is not all it should be, come
and help to make it better ; and let your union with the
Church of Christ be the evidence of your changed pur-
poses in regard to religion.
4. A change of heart. Hitherto I have been looking
at the subject from one point of view — that of human
responsibility and duty. Do not think, however, that
I have either forgotten or ignored the important truth
— " By grace are ye saved ; through faith and that not
of yourselves : it is the gift of God." I well understand
that God alone can change the heart and make it new ;
but believing that salvation is a blessing to be sought, I
have tried to indicate a course that I think will be help-
ful to seekers, especially the class that all along I have
had in view. Ponder well, I beseech you, the Saviour's
10 OUT OF THE FOLD.
words — "Except a man be born again he cannot see
the Kingdom of God ;" and then consider whether yon
are more likely to secure that priceless boon by con-
tinning in your present attitude, than by taking the
course I have indicated.
Permit me now to point out, very briefly,
IV. Some of the Advantages which a change in
THE RIGHT DIRECTION WILL SECURE.
1. You will secure peace of soul. I mean that peace
which comes when a man feels that lie is no longer at
war with his Maker ; when he feels that the strife is
over, and that he has fallen in with the plans and pur-
poses of God. In a word, I mean that peace which
results from a consciousness of doing right. There is a
still deeper peace — a " peace which passeth under-
standing " — which is God's gift to him that believes in
Jesus ; and this peace, too, shall be yours if you " follow
on to know the Lord."
2. You will secure thorough identification with God's
cause — no small advantage in a state of thing where
neutrality is sin. Once fully identified with the cause
of God you will no longer be halting " between two
opinions." You will no longer run the risk of being
suspected for a secret enemy, or, at least, a half-hearted
friend. Your influence and example will all be on the
side of right, and by just so much will the cause of sin
and wrong be weakened.
3. You will secure Christian fellowship and sympathy.
I confess I have no faith in a solitary Christianity.
Such an one may have fewer temptations to evil, but,
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again, he has fewer incentives to good. The words of
the Preacher apply forcibly here : — " Two are better
than one ; because they have a good reward for their
labor. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow :
but woe to him that is alone when he falleth ; for he
hath not another to help him up And if
one prevail against him, two shall withstand him ; and
a three-fold cord is not quickly broken."
4. You secure free access to the means of grace — and to
him who uses them aright they are very helpful and
very precious. In the estimation of some they may be
of small account ; but he who despises the means of
grace, despises Him who ordained them. He who loves
not to assemble with God's people for prayer and praise,
may find himself at last excluded from the goodly fellow-
ship of the redeemed in glory ; and he who carelessly
turns his back upon the Lord's Table here, may find no
place at the " marriage supper of the Lamb " above.
" And what shall I more say ?" I will say in all sin-
cerity and affection — "Come thou with us and we will do
thee good !" Stay no longer in the " far country," but
hasten with earnest heart to Him who waits to give you
a Father's welcome. Tarry no longer among the aliens,
but claim, through Christ, power to become a son of
God. Halt no longer between two opinions, but now
" come out from " the world and " be separate." I trust
you are already convinced you ought to be a Christian :
may that conviction soon deepen into the resolve, — " By
God's grace I will be a Christian."
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